I suppose it shouldn’t be a big surprise…

But according to this article by Kaya Yurieff over at CNN.com…

Bill Gates just switched to an Android phone

As I said in the header, it shouldn’t be too big a surprise as Mr. Gates never seemed all that interested in pursuing Apple products.

Speaking as someone who owns an Apple iPhone (don’t know which generation it is, but I do know it is at least two generations “old” at this point and I don’t have a huge desire to upgrade) and iPad (if you’ve seen my Sketchin’ posts, you know I’m loving using the iPad 10.5 inch and Apple Pencil to create these images), I can appreciate the good Apple does but there is a part of me that remains uneasy with the whole enterprise.

While I appreciate the elegance of their products, there is this (for lack of a better word) greed that at least to me permeates their entire being.

I know, I know.

They’re an industry and they cater to their bottom line, just like all other tech companies.  What do you expect them to do, not want to make money?

Yeah, but Apple seems to take that to a larger degree.

While we see new models of Android phones come and go, Apple revels in their yearly new product “events”, where they pitch their latest products as “must” buys, even as they’re no doubt already at work on the next (and probably next after that) iteration of their “new” phone already.  And the changes from one product to the next haven’t been all that incredibly great of late, at least IMHO, and the whole thing feels more and more like a hard sell for something that you may neither want nor really need.

As I mentioned above, I have -and love– my new 10.5 inch iPad because it allows me to use the Apple Pencil and create wonderful artwork without having to deal with messy inks and pencils.

However, apart from this -and it obviously is a very big thing to me personally- I don’t see that much of a difference between that iPad and the one I owned before, which I believe was a second or third generation version.

Yes, the art stuff is fabulous, but if you’re not into doing artwork on your iPad, then there’s really no need to spend the $500+ -and that’s not counting the $100 for that Apple Pencil!- on a this new machine.

In fact, when I purchased the 10.5 inch iPad, I figured after checking it out I’d also upgrade my wife’s iPad as, like me, she’d also been using the same 2nd or 3rd generation machine as I was.

But when I got the new iPad, I realized that the art stuff was the only real reason to get the new machine.  Sure, the new machine also has a better camera and a few more bells and whistles, including a faster processor and a crisper monitor, but the difference isn’t so incredible as to merit the extra expense… especially if you’re happy with your iPad and you don’t really need to do art with that Apple Pencil.

So there you have it.

I own and enjoy certain Apple products, yet I’m skeptical of the company itself and their extreme (again, IMHO) ways of trying to get you to give them your money.

Ah well!

Theme parks before and after smartphones

Over at CNN I found this fascinating article by Barry Neild which, if you’re read the headline above, is about…

Photos show theme parks before and after smartphones

It’s a quick -and somewhat depressing- read though I do wish there were more photographs provided by their subject, world-wide park goer Stefan Zwanzger, who has noted the differences in how people enjoy -or not!- parks in these days of smartphones versus back when smartphones weren’t as ubiquitous as they are now.

Ah well!

The passing of Hugh Hefner

News broke yesterday that Hugh Hefner, 91, had passed away (here’s a CNN article by Brandon Griggs on his passing, if you want to read more).

In many ways, Mr. Hefner was one of the more influential figures of the late 20th Century.  His publication, Playboy, came at exactly the right time and rode the wave which only grew larger and larger from the 1960’s and on.

Yes, the magazine was mostly known for giving us photographs of incredibly beautiful -and sometimes very famous- women in the nude, but also were featured other things…

As the recurrent joke goes when one is discovered with a copy of the magazine: I bought it for the interview or story or whathaveyou.

And yet another icon of the era falls.

Twilight (1998) a (belated) review

To begin, this review concerns the 1998 noir/detective Twilight film which features Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman, James Gardner, and (in an early role) Reese Witherspoon.  Here’s the movie’s trailer:

Watching this trailer for the first time since seeing the film yesterday, I’m struck by a couple of things presented in it that didn’t make it to the film itself.  For example, there is a quick shot of what looks like someone firing a gun with a silencer.  Not in the film at all (either that or I’m suffering from some startling memory loss) but I think I know where that scene might have gone, and it involves someone (MILD SPOILERS) Newman’s character visits early on in the movie and finds was shot.

The second thing in the trailer that didn’t appear in the film is what appears to be a funeral.  I think I know what that was about… Paul Newman’s character at one point tells another character that his life fell apart when he lost his daughter (this is not a terribly big spoiler as its more background information regarding his character and doesn’t figure much into the story proper) and that led him to lose his wife and become a drunk, which he’s now cleaned up from.  Either that or the funeral involves another character and may have been part of the film’s ending… but I’ll not give this one away.

I only point these two things out because it indicates to me the film was crafted in the editing stage and, obviously, extraneous material was trimmed back… thought at times this led to choppiness in the story presented.  For example, in the trailer you see one scene where Newman and Hackman’s character are talking by the pool.  This scene, which does appear in the film itself, has Mr. Newman with a white towel around him and appears suddenly in the movie without much explanation as to why these two just happen to suddenly be at the pool and talking about things.

Odd stuff.

But let’s back up a moment and address the film itself.

I first heard about Twilight years ago, likely when it was released in 1998.  Though I didn’t see it then, a relative of mine went to see it and we talked about it and, for whatever reason, I recalled the conversation.  She said the film was good but that Mr. Newman looked so old in the role… whenever there were fisticuffs, she feared he’d break his hip.

That image remained with me as did my curiosity to see the film. It came and went in theaters and, truth be told, is mostly forgotten today and yet…

I’ve noted before I’m a fan of Paul Newman’s 1966 film Harper (I reviewed it here) which featured Mr. Newman’s playing private detective Lew Harper.  This movie, which many consider a great updating of the then previous generation’s detective novels by the likes of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, was itself based on the excellent Lew Archer novels by Ross MacDonald.  In 1975 Mr. Newman returned to the role of Lew Harper in the belated sequel to that movie entitled The Drowning Pool (here’s my review of that film).

With Twilight, I instinctively thought Mr. Newman was -in a sly way- returning for what would be the last time to a role similar to that of Harper, though this movie was very clearly not based on any Ross MacDonald novels nor featured the “Harper” character.

Ok, enough preamble.  My quick take:

Twilight is a decent enough, if choppy, detective thriller that is never quite as engaging as one hoped it would be and features Paul Newman in a role that, frankly, my relative was right about.  Mr. Newman, who was 72 or 73 years old at the time he made this film, simply looks too old for this role.  Understand: I’m not trying to be ageist here.  There have been elderly actors who have successful played in roles like this.

But Mr. Newman, unfortunately, at that point in his life just did not look spry or strong enough to get into the fist and gunfights he engages in here.  As my relative so correctly pointed out, when he gets knocked over and falls to the ground, your instant reaction is to worry he won’t get back up again.

Curiously, the film might have worked better if Gene Hackman and Paul Newman exchanged roles.  Gene Hackman, who was approximately 68 at the time this film was made (only four or five years younger than Newman), would have looked a lot better in the detective role, with all due apologies to Mr. Newman.

Anyway, without getting into too many spoilers, Twilight features a plot reminiscent in at least one prominent way to Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep.  In Twilight we have a detective who is given a certain job and slowly sinks into a far deeper pool of shady characters, blackmail, and (this is where The Big Sleep similarity really come in) the fate of a specific person, and how that has led to the present situation for all the actors.

As a non-official conclusion to the “Harper” films, Twilight is OK enough but, alas, the least of the three Newman detective movies.  Still, it isn’t a terrible movie by any stretch but it would have benefited from a sharper script which, in turn, may have led to less work in the editing stage.

If you liked Harper and The Drowning Pool and are curious to see Mr. Newman return to a similar role, then give Twilight a try.  At the very least, your curiosity, like mine, may be sated.

A couple of additional notes:

Twilight features a couple of very odd story points, one which is very brief and the other stretches through much of the film, both of which are completely and utterly unbelievable.


First up, there comes a point in the movie where Mr. Newman’s character goes to Mr. Gardner’s character’s home.  Mr. Gardner’s home has two levels so Newman heads toward the stairs and is outside the house when he is nearly hit with what turns out to be Mr. Gardner taking a piss outside his balcony.

You read that right.

Mr. Gardner lives in a nice neighborhood and has a nice house and he feels the need to… take a piss outside his balcony and onto the first level of his home?!

It’s possible the movie’s writers intended this to be some kind of symbolic thing.  Perhaps Mr. Gardner was showing contempt toward Newman’s character but there is never an indication given that Mr. Gardner’s character knew he was there.  I suppose it could also show that despite living in such a beautiful environment, he’s still a low level person, but that seems an awful stretch.  Finally, maybe he bought a house without any working bathrooms.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

The second thing the movie presents, early on, is that Newman’s character gets shot in the leg.  However, we later find the scuttlebutt by all the people he knows in the police department is that he was shot in the genitals and, therefore, is… uh… penis-less.

Eventually Newman’s character finds out what others think, but this too stretches credulity.  These are people he knows, perhaps not as friends, but you would think that two years later (which is the time between him being shot and the movie’s main story beginning) he’d know what they think and correct their misconceptions.

Weird stuff.

Reading novels…

Found this over on reddit (this is the full link) concerning “majchek’s” favorite quote about books, from author Ursula Le Guin:

In reading a novel, any novel, we have to know perfectly well that the whole thing is nonsense, and then, while reading, believe every word of it. Finally, when we’re done with it, we may find – if it’s a good novel – that we’re a bit different from what we were before we read it, that we have been changed a little, as if by having met a new face, crossed a street we never crossed before. But it’s very hard to say just what we learned, how we were changed.


I hadn’t read that quote before, which is presented in the introduction to her novel The Left Hand of Darkness.

As others have noted, reading a book is the closest you get to entering someone else’s head and, yes, joining/sharing in their dreams.

Most stories presented in novels, short/long stories, comic books, movies, and TV are, let’s be clear, mostly nonsense.

I love works that dwell on the fantastic.  I love the play Oedipus Rex.  I love the 1978 film Superman.  I consider Fritz Lang’s Metropolis one of the best movies, IMHO, ever made.  I love Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Over in the literary field,  I love the Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.  I love most of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories/poetry.  H. P. Lovecraft’s horror stories are a source of endless fascination, as are the works of Lester Dent (Doc Savage), Robert E. Howard (Conan).  I love the hard boiled works of Raymond Chandler (one of, IMHO, the best pure writers out to ever come around) and Dashiell Hammett.

In comics, I love the earlier writings of Alan Moore.  I find Len Wein, Denny O’Neil, Doug Moench, Marv Wolfman, Archie Goodwin, etc. etc. etc.’s storytelling.

This stuff is a source of constant wonder and amusement and, in some cases, awe.

Yet, looking at almost all the stories that I love so much logically… they are indeed nonsense.

Sure, some of the works I mentioned above address societal issues (Metropolis, for example, dealt -at times in a very heavy handed way- with the idea of societal divisions between lowly -and at times exploited- workers and those who run the industries they work at, and how these two parts of society could eventually understand each other).  Others, especially the works of Edgar Allan Poe, worm their way into a person’s feelings of guilt and mounting horror… to delightful effect.

And, as stated so eloquently by Le Guin, if the work is good and we absorb what the author/actor/etc. is offering us, we come away with a potentially very positive thing: We learn something new.  We experience a feeling we may not have had before.  At the very least, we potentially come away with a richer feeling than before.

What a positive feeling to have!

Makes me want to jump right into my novel… which I’m about to do! 😉

Corrosive Knights, a 9/25/17 Update

Just a few days ago I wrote up a mini-update on my latest Corrosive Knights series.

I began the Corrosive Knights many years ago with Mechanic

…and I worried that book #7 in this series, the concluding story, would be so big it needed to be broken into two novels.

Well, as I stated in that update I wrote a few days back, I was getting all the stuff I was hoping to do and it was looking even better that I’d have the story done in one larger novel.

Saturday, being alone for most of the day, I sat before the computer and began what, it turned out to be, the finishing touch on those elements I worried might lead to splitting the novel in two.

In effect, I finished what I need to finish and, later that day (or was it Sunday?) I cut and pasted the material into one large file and today, Monday, I printed the whole damn thing…

And there it is, lying –very heavily- on my desk.

The total page count for what is essentially a first full/complete draft of the story came to 261 single spaced pages (I print on both sides to preserve paper) and a total word count of 128,761.  These numbers easily represent the largest word/page count for any early draft of my novels… and I’m quite sure that count will go up as I begin the reviewing process.  I know there are some things -mostly smaller things at this point- here and there I still have to add in.

The most exciting thing is that that’s where I am: In the reviewing process.  There are still some things that need to be worked out and bits and pieces which will either be added or removed, but this draft has almost everything I wanted to touch upon in this novel from start to end.

So the process goes on and I’ll spend most of this week -and likely some of next!- reading and revising this draft and marking it up like crazy.  Then, off to the computer to put in all the revisions, print it out, and go through the same process of refining the novel until I feel it is ready to be released.

In general, I’ve taken roughly 12 drafts to get to that point.

My hope is that it will happen soon!

Sketchin’ 28

If people remember actor Raymond Burr today, it is either for his odd framing appearance in the 1956 Americanized version of the original Godzilla (his scenes were filmed and inserted into this -obviously- Japanese film so that Americans would have both someone to explain what was going on and, I suppose, an American presence to relate to) and/or more likely for his role of defense attorney extraordinaire Perry Mason in the show with the same name which ran from 1957 to 1966 and was followed, years later and until his eventual passing in 1993, with a bunch of TV movies.

But before Mr. Burr appeared in these two works, he was very active in radio dramas (often playing both villains and heroes) and, more often than not, playing villains in many movies.  This promo picture of a younger Burr, presented also as his IMDB picture, is a great one which shows plenty of heavy shadows and a very noir look. Wouldn’t be surprised if this picture landed Mr. Burr a few villainous roles here and there!

Sketchin’ 27… and a Corrosive Knights update 9/22/2017

Life for me is slowly but surely going back to “normal” after Irma.

The electricity returned a while back and we’ve picked up all the fallen branches and some has been picked up by the (very) busy garbage people and I think I’ve managed to regain all the lost sleep and shake off the muscle aches from all the stuff I’ve been doing to get the house back to what it was.

I’ve also managed to get back to both my writing and artwork.

First, regarding the writing, in the past few days I’ve been on a tear with the latest Corrosive Knights novel, getting the bits I needed written out and working them to something satisfactory.  Incredibly, because of Irma I hadn’t written a single thing for this novel in nearly two weeks.


But its flowing well.  Last time around when I talked about this book, I mentioned that it might be split into two books.  This will be the concluding chapter of the Corrosive Knights series and, as such, I was intent on making it as spectacular as I could… but I worried there might be a little too much diverse material for “just” one book.

Well, based on the writings I’ve done in the past few days, I’m thinking that might not be necessary after all and I may well be able to make this concluding chapter “fit” well within this novel after all, even if this concluding chapter will be extra sized.

This thrills me!

Anyway, I’ll offer more information as it comes…

Meanwhile, my latest sketch.  This piece, taken from perhaps one of the most famous frames from the 1920 silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, shows Dr. Caligari, his sleepwalking/zombie subject Cesare, and Jane Olsen, the intrepid lady in peril.

If you haven’t seen the film, give it a whirl.  For something now nearly 100 years old, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is an incredible work well worth checking out.

Nicolas Cage Movies…

Hard to believe but there was a time actor Nicolas Cage was a very hot and in demand Hollywood celebrity.

He starred in “A” movies, whether they were intended to be nothing more than commercial, “fun” summer type releases (The Rock, Con Air, etc.) or critical darlings (Leaving Las Vegas, Raising Arizona, etc.).

Mr. Cage always struck me, even back then, as an edgy, somewhat “out there” kind of guy, but then again, being “out there” is certainly a plus when you’re an actor.

In 2009, things went downhill for Mr. Cage.  He was in trouble with the IRS and, ultimately (and according to the article I’ll link to in a moment), he was assessed some $14 million in owed taxes.

Since then, he’s been on a tear, appearing in movie after movie regardless of quality.  Is it to pay his bills?  I suspect so because in the past 8 years he’s appeared, believe it or not, in 29 films (or close to 4 films a year!).  Most of them are VOD works and few are considered terribly good.

Over at Slate.com, Nate Jones checks some of the many movies Mr. Cage has done since 2009 and offers the following fascinating list:

17 Nicolas Cage Movies You Had No Idea Existed

Many of these films are clearly not worth your time to pursue, much less see.  But there is a perverse thrill in seeing some of the acidic takes on some of the films so I’ll re-post, from the article, the description of the 2017 film Arsenal:

Cage reunites with (John) Cusack again for this revenge tale about a pair of brothers (Adrian Grenier and Johnathon Schaech) going to war against a local mob boss. (That’s Cage, wearing fake nose and a mustache than can only be described as “limp.”) Upon its release, the L.A. Times was confident enough to dub Arsenal a contender for the worst movie of 2017. It came out the first week of January.


Check it out.  I suppose its better than seeing most of those films all the way through.

Superman on film…

A couple of days ago it was announced that Warner Brothers were finally going to release the full, 3 hour version of the Richard Donner directed, Christopher Reeve starring Superman (1978) to home video.  They announced this on Facebook…


As you can see in the image I posted above, this is the “3 Hour Long TV Version” that is being promoted/sold here.  Back in 1982, when the film aired on television, is was a very big event and they showed the film over two nights and this version, unlike the later released “Extended Version” (or, as its listed above, the “Special Edition.”  I’ll refer to this version as SE from now on), featured even more footage not seen before.

While I haven’t seen it in a while, I didn’t like the SE that was released in 2000.


Because at some point in the late 1990’s -and this was when laserdiscs were first coming into their own and waaaaaay before the advent of DVDs- I was at a convention and among the various dealers I found one who sold a bunch of VHS tapes of oddball/unavailable films and TV shows.  Among them was the then red-hot Pamela Anderson sex tape (this was before the internet came into its own, as well!), the Roger Corman directed (and never released) Fantastic Four, a bunch of TV shows that to that point weren’t at that time available (Space: 1999, Thunderbirds, etc.), and that TV aired version of Superman.

Though it shames me to admit it, I purchased the Pamela Ander– uh– Superman VHS tape and when I got home I eagerly put it on.

I have to give credit to the bootleggers: They took considerable time and effort into making this admitted bootleg copy the best thing they could.  They took the laserdisc/widescreen version of Superman as the base and intersliced all the extended scenes from that TV airing into their proper places.  As a viewer you could easily see what was the theatrical release -it was all the widescreen stuff- and what was aired during that two night TV event -fullscreen and of sometimes dodgy quality.

I wound up enjoying the TV version immensely.  Other than an extended bit with a Kryptonian Military Policeman which went nowhere (see next paragraph), this version seemed to be very close to a working “final cut” of the film for director Richard Donner.

(As for that Kryptonian Flying Motorcycle cop bit: After General Zod and his cohorts are banished to the Phantom Zone, Jor-El (Marlon Brando), talks to the Council of Elders about Krypton’s imminent destruction.  The Council will have none of it and forbid him from causing any hysteria.  He returns home to place his son on the rocket ship and the Council, fearing Jor-El continues defying them, calls a Kryptonian Military Policeman -see image below- to go arrest him.

Image result for Superman the movie kryptonian police

The Military Policeman gets on his flying motorcycle and is off to get Jor-El when the end of that world occurs.  We get some shots of his POV as he flies through the devastation before eventually dying via falling buildings.  It was a silly bit of scenery that didn’t really add much suspense to the proceedings and was a welcome cut, IMHO)

When in 2000 they released the SE of Superman, I was eager to get it and figured it would be that TV version.  Alas, it was not.  Sure, you got some new scenes, most famous of which is probably the sequence involving Superman working his way into Lex Luthor’s lair for the first time and being attacked by Luthor’s many security features, including a machine gun and heat…

In the theatrical cut, they got rid of the security features and just went ahead and showed Superman arrive in the underground, then cut to him ripping the metal door to get into the lair.

There was also Luthor’s “Babies”, some kind of wild and deadly animal that he torments Otis into feeding and which plays a role toward the end of the movie…

However, there were also scenes that were put back in that, frankly, had me scratching my head.  It seemed like the whole thing was fairly haphazard in terms of what they decided to add back into the film and what they left out.

There was one tiny only a few seconds long sequence that I really liked in the 3 hour version that, for whatever reason, they didn’t bother putting back into the SE:

Immediately after the Clark/Lois-mugging-scene, our leads emerge from the alley and take a cab and, with them inside it, drive off.  The camera (if memory serves) then pans away (without cutting) to across the street and there we see, for the first time, Otis (Ned Beatty), Lex Luthor’s henchman.  As we shift from Clark and Lois and to Otis, the music shifts as well and we transition to Otis’ theme.

I always liked the way that little scene worked.  It made the massive city of New York suddenly seem smaller, more interconnected, and provided a much more comfortable transition from our leads and to the introduction of our movie’s villain.  (In the theatrical version, it always felt rather abrupt the way we go from the mugging scene to suddenly seeing Otis walking the streets)

As I already stated, this sequence couldn’t have been more than a few seconds long yet I always liked it and was scratching my head when the SE didn’t bother including it.

I wish I could give more examples but, alas, I haven’t seen the extended version in quite some time.  I got rid of my VHS player a very long time ago though I still have those VHS tapes of the extended movie.  A while back I considered taking them to get converted to a DVD format.

Now, with the formal release of that 3 hour TV version of Superman, I won’t have to.

I can’t wait to get my hands on this copy of the movie!